Bal Harbour Police chief placed on leave
BAL HARBOUR, Fla. (WSVN) -- The Bal Harbour Police Department said they have placed Chief Thomas Hunker on administrative leave.
The action stems from a Department of Justice probe accusing the small police agency of misspending drug profits seized from criminals during undercover stings. The government is asking for the return of millions of dollars spent on first class airline tickets and luxury hotels, among other things.
"Right now Chief Hunker has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation," said Bal Harbour Human Resources Director Jay Smith.
On Nov. 1, concerned citizens packed into the village hall to learn more and ask questions of the Chief of Police. "People say this is all about the money," said Hunker, addressing the citizens.
Hunker took the leave after the DOJ released a report with concerns about the mismanagement of millions of dollars in seized drug money at his department as well as misconduct. "In response to information received from the US Department of Justice we've asked an outside agency to investigate the allegations raised by the Department of Justice," Smith said.
Allegations beyond the money, include professional misconduct, where the chief is accused of accepting gifts like luxury vacations and a discount on his wife's Jeep. In a statement, the chief's attorney, Richard Sharpstein, denied these allegations: "It's extremely disappointing the government would release an unsubstantiated document. Thomas Hunker has dedicated his life to public service. This is petty jealously from a disgruntled employee."
Last month, Chief Hunker maintained neither he nor his department had done anything wrong, and he said he welcomed the federal investigation, "... and anybody that's known me for the almost 40 years I've been a cop, knows it's not about the money," he said at the Nov. 1 meeting.
Hunker himself asked to be placed on administrative leave during the investigation.
Miami-Dade Police are the outside agency asked to investigate these allegations.
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